Dallas, Texas is the fourth-largest metro area in the United States. That might make you think Big D, the city’s nickname, stands for big and daunting, especially when it comes to planning a visit with kids. But fear not! This booming metropolis not only offers big fun for little people–from museums and gardens to splash pads and city parks–but it is easy to navigate and enjoyable to explore!
Dallas has been on my list of Texas cities to visit for 15 years. We have stayed nearby at Great Wolf Lodge and The Gaylord Texan, and even ventured into the city for a quick stop at the American Girl store, yet we never stuck around long enough to see all that Big D has to offer. Earlier this month, I finally planned a downtown Dallas getaway, so my children could experience all the urban fun we’d been missing out on. We spent two days packing in as many activities as one mom and four kids could handle in 97-degree heat, and we had a blast.
Things to do in Dallas with Kids
Since my goal for this trip was to hit all the major tourist attractions, we got the Dallas CityPASS for everyone in our party, which granted us admission to the Dallas Zoo, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and Reunion Tower GeO-Deck. In between those big adventures, we also stopped to check out parks, playgrounds, food trucks, sculptures, murals, and splash pads. It was a great, full (exhausting) weekend! These were a few of our favorite stops.
The Dallas Zoo is incredible. With 106 acres of exhibits and interactive areas, we found it hard to tackle in half a day, but we tried! My kids especially loved the Children’s Zoo, where they got to hand-feed birds and ride a pony. They also played in a stream (pictured below), climbed a rope spider web, and visited a petting zoo there.
Traveling Mom Tip: The Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail costs $5 extra, but it’s worth it to be able to sit down in an air conditioned, elevated car and enjoy a unique, narrated tour. The train loops around the back side of the zoo, showing visitors six habitats not accessible by foot: mountain, woodlands, river, arid, semi-arid and bush.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
We went straight from the zoo to the Dallas Arboretum, which might not have been the best plan, given that they are both outdoors. But, fortunately, the Arboretum’s Children’s Adventure Garden was so exciting, my kids didn’t seem to mind the heat. They made giant bubbles with volunteers, got drenched in the splash pad, learned about DNA in an interactive workshop, tried the mesmerizing kaleidoscope, followed clues in The Amazing Secret Garden, experimented with hydro and solar power, and more. There was so much to see and touch and try in the Children’s Adventure Garden, we spent three hours there and never even made it to the rest of the Botanical Garden.
TravelingMom Tips: The Children’s Adventure Garden has its own entrance. If that is your primary destination, you can park in the parking garage–located at 8720 Garland Road–and follow the tunnel under the street to that entrance. Parking is cheaper if you pay online, in advance. Also, the Arboretum rents wagons, but wagons are not allowed in the Children’s Adventure Garden. Bring your own stroller, as these are allowed (and you will do a lot of walking – the place is huge!).
Main Street Park
While driving in search of dinner, we spotted this fun park! It had a great splash pad, Tot Lot, and dog park. We stopped and played for at least an hour. The park is located at 1902 Main Street.
TravelingMom Tip: Drive down the street from the park to see “Eye,” a 30-foot tall giant eyeball sculpture located at 1601 Main Street.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
I have been looking forward to checking out the Perot Museum since it opened four years ago, and it did not disappoint. We explored 11 exhibit halls spread across six levels, and finished our morning with the incredible 20-minute film Tiny Giants 3D.
TravelingMom Tip: There is a cafe inside the Perot, but you can also walk across the street to enjoy a Tex-Mex lunch at El Fenix. We had a great meal there, before heading further up the road to the Dallas Museum of Art and Klyde Warren Park.
Dallas Museum of Art
Admission to the Dallas Museum of Art is free and they have special summer activities for families!
TravelingMom Tip: Closed on Mondays. I found this out when we tried to visit on a Monday. Good thing Klyde Warren Park is nearby!
Klyde Warren Park
Klyde Warren Park has it all! You can borrow magazines, books, or board games to play for free. Order lunch and sweet treats from nearby food trucks, and eat at any of the plentiful cafe tables scattered throughout the park. Try any of the park’s four splash pads, explore the playgrounds, and kick a ball around the fields. Plus, if you time it right, you can enjoy free scheduled activities like storytime and yoga in the park.
TravelingMom Tip: Try eFrogs shuttles for easy downtown transportation. Text (469) 432-4055 and ask if they are available to take you from point A to point B (for example: Klyde Warren Park back to the Perot Museum parking lot), and mention how many passengers you have. The rides are free; you just tip your driver! The only catch is that sometimes no drivers are available, so you might get stuck walking.
You might also be interested in 5 Things to Eat in Dallas-Forth Worth and 5 Places to Vacation in Texas that are Worth the Splurge!